The famous Royal Navy flagship entered service on 1 July 1985 and was commissioned in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on 1 November 1985.
The UK’s high readiness strike carrier is currently deployed in the western Atlantic Ocean undertaking a multinational maritime exercise.
The aircraft carrier, at immediate notice to deploy anywhere in the world, has recently taken part in celebrations marking the centenary of the Canadian Navy in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen.
While in Halifax, HMS Ark Royal was visited by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who was in the country to attend the G20 Summit and took the opportunity to mark Armed Forces Day by commending the hard work and commitment shown by the ship’s company and restated his commitment to the vital role the Royal Navy plays in modern defence.
The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, also visited the ship during the International Fleet Review, hosting an official reception for over 500 VIPs from Canada and NATO-partner countries.
HMS Ark Royal, or the ‘Mighty Ark’ as she is somtimes known, is the fifth ship to bear the name and has added to the illustrious history of her forebears and upheld her famous motto ‘Zeal Does Not Rest’.
The first Ark Royal, originally built for Sir Walter Raleigh, became the flagship of the English fleet which fought against the Spanish Armada in 1588.
The third Ark Royal took part in the sinking of the Bismarck and Ark Royal IV was the subject of the famous ‘Sailor’ documentary from 1978.
The current Ark Royal helped bring peace to Bosnia in 1993/94 and, following an extensive refit and upgrade in the late 1990s, took part in the second Gulf War in 2003.
HMS Ark Royal is one of the Royal Navy’s two operational Invincible Class aircraft carriers.
She weighs 22,000 tonnes and was built at Swan Hunter’s dockyard in Newcastle. Construction on her hull began in 1978 and she was commissioned into service in 1985.
The construction cost of HMS Ark Royal was £320m but she was delivered by Swan Hunter four-and-a-half months ahead of schedule, with some mid-build alterations having been made due to lessons learnt from the Falklands conflict.
She can support up to 24 aircraft anywhere in the world and, along with this, provides a platform for task group command and control, communications and intelligence-gathering operations.
To date, she has played a central role in the furtherance of British foreign policy and provides a mixture of war-fighting, peace support and disaster relief capabilities.
All of those who have ever served on what many people believe to be the ‘world’s most famous warship’ always mention the great ‘Spirit of the Ark’, none more so than the current Commanding Officer, Captain John Clink:
HMS Ark Royal is a wonderfully happy ship. The name ‘Ark Royal’ is renowned throughout the world and I am very proud to be able to be a part of the history of this great ship,” he said.
HMS Ark Royal is 25 years old, yet remains fully capable of delivering air power to enemy targets.
I am excited about the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers which are currently being built around the UK, and foresee the long and distinguished history of Royal Navy carrier capability continuing well into the future.
The ship’s company of HMS Ark Royal will celebrate the Silver Jubilee with a series of events through the autumn when the ship returns to the UK.
The events are designed to maximise the opportunity for those who have been associated with the ship to visit her during the festivities, including visitor days for her affiliated schools, veterans associations, Service organisations and charities, as well as a reception for all former officers and warrant officers who have served on her.
The formal celebration will be a Ceremonial Divisions in Portsmouth on 5 November, with the final tribute being paid by her affiliated city, Leeds, which has given the ship’s company the honour of exercising the freedom of the city.